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7 Keys to Supporting a Sidelined Athlete Battling Depression

by Jordan Anderson

What can you do as a supporter if you know a sidelined athlete in your life is dealing with depression and needs continued support? Sidelined USA has compiled this list of seven essential considerations to help get you started.


KEY 1: Fight the Stigma.

Mental health is just like physical health. If someone has an injury, they get treatment; the same applies to mental health concerns and there should be no further stigma attached to it. The best way to help reduce stigma is by being vocal in your support of the athlete.

KEY 2: Provide a Sense of Safety and Security.

Make sure the athlete feels that they can be authentic and vulnerable about how they are really doing. Remain free from judgement and ensure that other people around the athlete are supporting their recovery and well-being as well. If you are supporting an athlete, take steps to make sure this is true in any setting (home, court, field, hangout, etc.).

KEY 3: Promote a Calming Attitude.

Fighting through depression is an individual and varied process for everyone. While this person's attitude may at times be intense and hard-driven, a calming attitude can promote safety, security, caring, love, and understanding.

KEY 4: foster Self-Efficacy and Collective-Efficacy.

This can be a difficult concept to grasp. Athletes suffering from depression may find it difficult to “jump-start” their recovery. As a supporter, you and the rest of the athlete's support network can help him/her find self-confidence in their recovery. A support network’s confidence in an athlete will allow him/her to learn that they have the inner strength to overcome their illness. A strong support group can make an athlete feel more confident in their own ability as well. A collective effort can also give the athlete multiple outlets to speak their mind, as an athlete may feel more comfortable speaking to certain people about certain feelings.

KEY 5: communicate a Sense of HOPE.

It is difficult to fight depression and other mental health concerns. However, it is imperative that a positive atmosphere is created. The overall goal of supporting anyone suffering through mental illness is to provide a sense of hope. Sidelined athletes often suffer from situational depression, as their illness has been brought on by an event. Through proper treatment, education, and support; relief is easier to come by. When an athlete seeks treatment and has great support, their outcomes are far better and respite is more attainable.

KEY 6: advocate for a Connected Atmosphere.  

Take a team approach wherever possible. It is imperative that all members of the athlete’s support network are committed to promoting a healthy recovery. Communicate with the coach, athletic trainer, family members, close friends, etc. to make sure everyone understands these keys to supporting the athlete’s emotional health. A common sports cliche applies here: “The team is only as strong as its weakest player.” If even one person in this group stunts an athlete’s recovery, it can have a significantly negative impact.

KEY 7: If they haven’t already, assist them in seeking help.

It is encouraged to let the athlete seek help on their own if they are able. You can help encourage this decision by having open conversations, reducing the stigma surrounding seeking mental health treatment, and offering assistance in finding the right professionals to speak to. If you suspect the athlete is in danger or harming themselves or others, you should then seek the treatment for them yourself.

As mentioned in the previous article you can go to to find a location close to you. This is a government website that compiles facilities and their locations. Each facility is different and it is important to find the best place for the athlete you’re supporting.

If you follow these simple keys you will doing a great service in supporting a sidelined athlete you know who is battling depression. If you are closely involved with an athlete’s recovery, you should seek the opinion of the medical health care professional caring for your athlete for any additional advice about specific ways you can support the athlete.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Neither Sidelined USA nor its affiliates provide clinical or medical care of any kind via their relationship with Sidelined. At no time should a user have an expectation of clinical care or professional services offered or rendered. 



Jordan Anderson, MS, ATC

Athletic Trainer, Vice-President of Illinois Athletic Trainers' Association, and Sidelined USA Board Member

Jordan was drawn to Sidelined USA because of its many outlets of support for permanently-sidelined athletes. Jordan recognizes the profound significance of mental health awareness in athletes and serves as a presenter on mental health in the athletic community. Jordan is passionate about growing Sidelined USA and helping athletes across the country find their place and cope with their new reality.